The Avoidance of Hell...(Brutally Honest Feedback Needed)
Ok so rubbish working title I know.
Basically, I keep thinking I've got a novel in me, and have poured hours into this first chapter... (literally hours and hours).
Basically, would really like some honest feedback - i.e "This is pants - give up".
Let me know what you think.
Thanks in advance.
I brought my car to a wheezing stop in front of a black electronic gate, and turned off the ignition. Either side of the gate, coiling ivy had wound its way in between the crumbling brickwork of an ageing wall, holding the bricks together. The wall looked like it had been there for a hundred years, but that it would survive another hundred.
To the right hand side of the gate, a small post with a push button and speaker sat awaiting my command, jutting out of the ground.
I wound down my window, which, as usual, required a sharp jerk of the handle half way down, and pressed the button. The speaker emitted a shrill buzzing tone, and after ten seconds it crackled and the voice of a well spoken gentleman began 'Good evening. How can I help you?'
'Detective Chief Inspector John Mitchum. I am here to see Mrs Donald,' I replied.
'Can you hold up your identification to the camera above the speaker please Detective,' he said
I reached into to my pocket, pulled out a well worn leather leather pouch, in which I had kept my identification card for the last twenty years, and held it up to the camera.
'Thank you Detective, I'm sure you appreciate the need for security nowadays. Unfortunately, Mrs Donald has already retired for the evening. May this wait until the morning?'
I increased the seriousness of my tone, 'It's about Mr Donald and I need to speak to her tonight'.
'Has something happened?,' he sounded mildly concerned.
'I'm afraid I can only discuss that with Mrs Donald in person'
'I will awaken her Detective. Please proceed up the driveway, towards the side entrance. You will need to take the left hand fork'
The crackling silenced, and the gate began to slide from right to left. I turned over the engine and it spluttered into action, my exhaust rattled as I accelerated through the gap that appeared.
Ahead of me lay a perfectly straight, shingle track stretching for about a mile. In the distance, to the right of the road, a four storey manor imposed itself over the landscape, illuminated from below by a subtle blue light. The track was flanked either side by beech trees, their autumn leaves radiating in my headlights.
The time was approaching ten and I was tired, having worked solidly for almost fifteen hours. During my journey over to the house, I had tried to figure out how I was going to tell Mrs Donald about her husband, but couldn't think of an easy way to break the news. I was used to talking to people about death, but these circumstances were different.
Harris had called me on my mobile at 8pm, just as I had sat down at a bar with a large glass of single malt.
'Boss, we've had a suspected murder reported at the Hotel Excelsior in Mayfair - we got here about thirty minutes ago,' Harris's broad east London accent was always going to hold him back, it belied his true intelligence and abilities as a policeman.
'That's great news Harris, but I've just finished for the day and so I'm sure you're perfectly capable of running with this until the morning'
'I think you're going to need to come and see this one Boss,' he sounded nervous, however I wasn't just going to drop my plans for the evening and rush over there; I'd been waiting to drown in a bottle since waking up that morning.
'You're going to try and drag me away from my whiskey?'
'I'm really sorry Boss, but there's something weird going on here. I'm not quite sure what to make of it,' he wasn't making much sense.
'What do you mean by weird?'
'I can't describe it over the phone. You'll have to come to the scene,' he said.
I wasn't annoyed with Harris as much as the job in general, but I wasn't going to let him off lightly for the inconvenience, 'Jesus Christ Harris, do I have to hold your hand through everything?'
'Sorry Boss, but I really think it's important that you come over here,' he said.
'I'll be there in half an hour'
Mildly irritated, I knocked back my whiskey and threw a tenner over the bar.
'Thanks Charlie. Keep the change'
'Goodnight Mr Mitchum,' said the bar tender.
I arrived at the hotel at around eight thirty, and left my car to outside the main entrance. The hotel was clearly a reputable establishment, with a porter stood outside in a three-piece red suit and top hat to greet arrivals with a smile and to open the door. I wasn't in the mood for returning the gesture, and blanked him as I walked through the opening.
The girl sitting behind the desk was young, perhaps too young, but her nubile body pricked up my tired eyes. To the right of the desk, standing in front of the lifts and stairs were two uniformed policemen.
'Good evening,' I tipped my hat to her and found the smile that I was unwilling to give to the porter.
'Good evening. Are you currently a guest here, because we've had to shut for the evening,' she said, her voice as immature as her looks.
'I'm with this lot, but thanks for assuming that I could be a normal member of the public, ' I said, pointing to the uniforms, and holding up my identification.
She beamed at me, her slight mouth parting to reveal milky white teeth, 'the room is on the second floor, number 207'
She wasn't the kind of woman I would normally go for, in fact she wasn't even old enough to be described as a woman, but she was new to her body and unblemished by life.
'Would you be able to take this up to Detective Sergeant Harris please. It's a print out of all of the calls made from the room since check-in that he asked me for earlier,' she said, and slipped the paper onto the top of the desk. Before she could remove her hand, I had placed mine on top. It was cold, and barely half the size of mine.
'Thanks, miss?' I enquired.
'Jane,' her porcelain face reddened.
I slid my hand slowly away from hers, and turned away from the desk, 'have a good evening Jane.'
I headed towards the stairs; I don't believe in elevators. When I was almost out of sight of the desk, I turned around to see her gazing back. She didn't need a man like me, I would spoil her youth.
At the top of the stairs I turned left and followed the uniformed crowd straight to the door. Harris was standing outside talking to one of the clones from Forensics.
He was a short but sturdy man, carrying a thick jacket of muscle on his frame. His cheap, machine-washable suit was a poor fit, being two inches too long in the arms, and two inches too narrow in the chest. This meant that he never fastened the buttons and was constantly pulling his shirt cuffs back through the end of his jacket sleeves.
'Good to see you Boss,' he was clearly relieved that I had arrived.
'Wish I could say the same Harris,' I wasn't going to let him know that my annoyance had subsided.
'Sorry to drag you out here late,' he said
'What are we dealing with?,' I asked.
'Male, Caucasian, 60 years old, Sebastian Donald, address in Chigwell, Essex according to his driving license. We found a wallet in his trousers, and the details match what reception have'
I turned to the Forensics officer, who was dressed in the standard issue Tyvek suit, face mask and blue rubber gloves, 'Any idea as to the cause of death yet?'
'Exactly which of his injuries was the cause of death isn't clear at the moment. But if I had to take an educated guess, I would go with the removal of his head,' the Forensics officer answered, his monotone voice was void of emotion.
'It looks as if his head was torn right off,' he said
'Jesus Christ. How the hell would you tear somebody's head off?,' I had seen some strange causes of death during my time, but this was extreme.
'I've never seen anything like it. The ligaments have been stretched and snapped,' said the Forensics officer, and by his tone of voice I could tell that this case had wetted his professional curiosity.
'What were the other injuries?,' I asked.
'Well, we'll need to get him back to the station and take a more closer look, but he is full of holes – there are gaping holes in his flesh,' he said.
'When we first got here he was covered in flies Boss. They were crawling out of the holes,' Harris butted in.
'Flies - he must have been here for a while then?'
'Well that's the strangest part of the whole thing. The minimum time from eggs being laid to flies hatching is 8 days. Yet he only checked into the hotel last night,' said the Forensics officer.
'How can that be? Are we sure that this is the body of the same man that checked in last night?,' I said.
'I've got somebody looking at the CCTV right now. But the details in the wallet match the details of those held at reception,' said Harris.
'None of this adds up at all. Can I see the body?'
'You can see the body Boss. But you can't see his head as we can't find it anywhere,' said Harris.
'So the killer has the head, which he tore off Mr Donald, whose corpse was infested with flies within twenty-four hours. This seems a little surreal,' I said. I could tell that this was going to be a long night, and wished that I'd turned my phone off when I left the station earlier in the evening.
I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out a pair of blue gloves and slipped them onto my hands. I reached forward to the door and turned the handle. Before I could push it open, Harris grabbed my arm and pulled me back.
'You're going to need some of this to go in there,' he warned, handing me a jar of menthol rub, which I opened and liberally spread underneath my nose.
I entered the room and a wave of nausea hit my stomach. The stench of death is the part of the job I've never quite learnt how to deal with, and this was more putrid than normal.
The carpet was originally a shade a dark shade of green, but now was plastered with scarlet patches of dried blood. As I moved forward, the corpses of dead flies crunched under my feet, there were thousands of them all over the floor. I couldn't see or hear any flies left alive anywhere in room, they had seemingly all died already.
Strewn across the bed lay the headless corpse, facing upwards with the ragged remnants of its clothes exposing gaping wounds in the abdomen, arms and legs. Where the head once sat, the sinewy, torn ligaments protruded, bloody and lifeless.
Blood was spattered up the walls in all directions and the white ceiling was dotted red. Harris had followed me in.
'Harris. What happened to the flies? Did somebody exterminate them?,' I asked.
'Around five minutes after we arrived they started to die and within half an hour they'd all copped it,' said Harris.
'Why would they just die?' I could only come up with questions.
'Forensics have bagged a few of them, and are going to take a look in the lab,' said Harris.
Whilst the room clearly showed the signs that a murder had occurred, it was not obvious how it had happened. There were no clear signs of a struggle and every piece of furniture in the room was in its rightful place.
Harris's phone rang, the noise of some modern rock band poured out. It was the station.
I left him to deal with it and walked around the rest of the room. On the bedside table was a half empty glass of water, which was now tinged slighted red with blood and an opened bible. I picked up the bible, and a passage was faintly underlined in pencil.
2 Kings 1-6
And they said unto him, There came a man up to meet us, and said unto us, Go, turn again unto the king that sent you, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that thou sendest to enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron? therefore thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die.
I had no idea what it meant, religion had never agreed with me. I pulled out my notebook and wrote the passage down, ripped a further page out and used it to mark the page in the Bible, and closed the book. On the front cover the name of a church was printed “St Mary's in the Fields”.
Harris hung up his phone, 'He's married. Wife's name is Katalin, she's from Hungary and about 30 years his junior. The station is going to send some officers over in the morning to bring her in to see if she can identify the body, once we get it back to the mortuary.'
'No. I want to go over there myself and speak to her first.'
'You know that's against procedure - we have properly trained teams for this type of thing,' said Harris.
Increasing the intensity of my voice, 'I don't care about procedure. If we have any chance of getting any further along before Forensics have done their work, we need some more information about what he might have been doing here and Mrs Donald is probably the only one that has a chance of doing that. There's nothing else we are going to get from this room tonight.'
Harris tore a piece of paper out of his notebook, and handed it over to me, 'You know best Boss. Here's the address,' he said.
'Thanks. Can you have a look into this,' I handed him the Bible. 'I found this by the side of the bed, and it's not from the room. There's a passage highlighted. Can you get someone to figure out what it means, and send an officer over to the church that's listed on the front first thing in the morning. See if he was a regular there?
'Sure Boss,' replied Harris.
'You stay here and let me know when you hear anything on that CCTV footage'
I was about to leave, and remembered the piece of paper in my pocket, 'I forgot to give you this – it's a list of calls made from the room. Can you check who he made calls to?,' I said.
'I'll get right onto it,' said Harris.
'Call me as soon as you have something'